English 102

Why Scholarly Sources?

You may be wondering why I place such emphasis on scholarly sources. After all, these are the work of experts talking to other experts. Mostly they are produced by people who have advanced degrees in their fields. Relatively few of you will choose to go on to graduate school, where people are trained for this kind of work. So why do I insist upon using it in this class?

Two reasons. First, many of you will choose to go on to a four-year college or university. In those settings, scholarly books and journals are some of the primary sources used for your courses. Your professors often have written such works themselves, and they study them constantly to maintain their expertise. You will be required to read, understand and use them in your course work. This introduction will help prepare you for those expectations.

Second, even if you choose not to attend a four-year school, familiarity with the work that scholars do and some of the basic ground rules for that work is, in my opinion, indispensable for full participation in adult life in this country. Scholars are a small but immensely powerful group. Every aspect of our lives is shaped by what they do, from the way our cars work to the food we eat to the way our children are taught in school. You can’t pick up a paper or turn on the news without seeing some reference to what experts are doing, saying, thinking or deciding, often on your behalf. Some basic understanding of the ground rules they must obey and how they go about their work is crucial if you are not to be left in the dark, totally dependent on their good will and ability, taking everything they say on faith.

In short, this knowledge is something everyone should have. The requirement that you know how to find, identify, read and at least partially understand scholarly research is my effort to contribute a small piece to that basic understanding.